There wouldn't have been any good way to hear the news I suppose. It's just so strange to recall the conversation yesterday. My "still in" parents are with me and my inactive sister having a pleasant conversation. After a pause, Mom asks me, "You knew NG from the neighboring congregation?"
"Of course. How's he doing?" I ask.
Mom: "He committed suicide a few weeks ago."
I immediately burst into tears.
As much as I prepare for anything that might come up in conversation with my parents, I wasn't prepared for that. NG and I had been in bethel together for over a decade. Although we didn't work together or have the same congregation, we had many friends in common and would always laugh a lot when we did get to socialize. He was the kind of nice, friendly, funny guy that was just really likeable.
I can't remember the timeline exactly between when he got married and I left bethel. But he and his wife continued in bethel for a few years. It was after I'd started posting here that I'd heard that he had moved nearby. Since I was starting to plan my fade and I was already so busy, I didn't put much effort into reconnecting with him. But we did get to visit a few times and talk about post-bethel life. He knew that I'd left because of depression and I'd told him about the hardships of my work after leaving. He didn't give a lot of specifics, but it seemed that they'd been asked to leave in the ongoing bethel purge. Knowing his circumstances, I knew it was going to be tough for them coming out into a terrible economy, but if I could handle it, I knew he could.
The last time we visited, I filled him in on my removal as an elder and my plans to go to uni. He filled me in on what was going on with them and some of our friends in common. I sure didn't imagine that it was the last time I'd see him before he would take his life.
Now looking back I feel like I should have seen or asked or cared more. He probably had to settle for the first sh!tty job after bethel he could find because you leave with no unemployment, no real references. I think he and his wife were living with someone else and probably had no insurance. He went to a congregation that was just recovering from serious problems. I remember going through a lot of that stuff. It was certainly depressing for me. But there's no going back to try to save him. It's just so sad.
Mom and Dad didn't have much any other details than that he'd evidently stopped taking medication for depression. We speculated that he couldn't afford the pills he needed or the expense of going to a psychiatrist for treatment. And they don't know what his widow's plans are.
Of course, Mom apologized for breaking the news so indelicately. She didn't realize that I'd known him so well.
As if that news wasn't shocking enough, they told me that a friend of his, another brother in the same congregation, committed suicide a couple weeks later. His memorial service was just a few days ago. I didn't really know this brother well, but news of any suicide is, and will probably always be something very painful for me to hear.
That makes a sad total of 8 JW men that I've known who have committed suicide, including 2 ex-bethelites. Maybe it's time for me to stop keeping count, but I just can't forget them.